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    REVIEW: Hitman Vs Hitman by Cari Z & L.A. Witt

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    Hitman Vs Hitman – Cari Z & L.A. Witt

    Ricardo Torralba and August Morrison don’t agree on much besides the fact that they hate each other. According to Ricardo, August is a spoiled brat who really needs to knock off the sass once in a while. August insists that Ricardo needs a sense of humor, a good lay, or a well-placed bullet. Maybe all three.

    Fortunately, the assassin’s profession is a solitary one, and they can go about their lives without getting in each other’s way.

    Usually.

    When a contracted hit turns out to be a setup for both of them, they narrowly escape with their lives. Now, even if they don’t like it (spoiler: they don’t), August and Ricardo have to work together if they want a shot at survival.

    In between firefights and questionable interrogation methods as they hunt down their would-be killer, the cranky assassins discover that under all that mutual loathing is a spark of chemistry they can’t ignore. They want to ignore it, they probably should ignore it, but August can’t help flirting to annoy Ricardo, and Ricardo can think of at least one way to shut him up for a while.

    But they need to focus, damn it, and figure out who’s gunning for them and why.

    Assuming they don’t kill each other first.

    Hitman vs Hitman is a standalone gay romantic suspense featuring two men who’d rather chew glass than fall for each other, a whole lot of inappropriate comments, and some buttons that will need resewing.


    L.A. Witt and Cari Z had wowed me with their awesomely co-written series, Bad Behavior. Their latest book, Hitman Vs Hitman is a fun, explosive romp oozing with USTs between two hired guns who were contracted to take on an assignment that was set up to get them both killed.

    Hitmen all over the world are ranked in a website called Rate My Hit. It’s where clients post reviews worded as satirical comments.

    The #1 hitman according to the website is Ricardo Torralba. He’s a born planner who has a trunk full of props and costumes that lets him slip through security. He’s of Spanish descent but he can change his accent when undercover. He’s a grumpy, taciturn fellow with a drawer filled with burner phones.

    And #2 on the chart is August Morrison, an unlikely person for such occupation. He is publicly known as the son of a billionaire. His mansion is built like Bruce Wayne’s. He loves clothes. Wears designer suits to his assignments. And jeeesus, when is he going to shut up?!

    This book moved fast, much like the way Ricardo and August were constantly on the run from whoever had them in their crosshairs. They paused long enough to come up with a plan to turn things around. Along the way, their combustible combination finally combusted and they discovered, that despite their very obvious differences, they’re really good together in more ways than they expected.

    The chemistry is off the charts! The sexual tension adding piquancy to the already strained interactions of two men on edge. I love the way these two threw off fireworks while constantly bickering. And that they took time before jumping each other’s bones.

    I do think the way their backstories were presented could have been stronger. While we get a good picture of Ricardo’s and August’s personalities, I felt their pasts could have been explored further. We learn more about August and his quirks. Also him with his famous billionaire face, going about his secret missions sans disguise and not recognized is stretching it.

    Majority of the book is spent uncovering the identity of the person who set them up. The mystery wasn’t hardcore mindboggling and you can kind of expect who the bad guy was. Still, it was an intriguing enough plotline.

    We get an HFN that left some things open in case the authors decide to give us a sequel. I wish they would because that conclusion certainly felt like the start of events that will shake up the charts. I liked that Ricardo and August did not retire as is usually the case when assassins are given their happy endings.

    Overall, Hitman Vs Hitman is light, humorous, suspenseful with OTT stunts and a lot of ridiculousness, mostly from August. It might not be a bullseye but it still hit its target.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Bullet
    Artist: Riot Child
    Album: Made For Another Time


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    KINDLE
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    SERIES REVIEW: Handled Books 2 & 3 by Romilly King

    I practically inhaled these last two Handled books in one sitting because they’re that good!

    The entire series blew me away with Gray and Nathan’s deliciously deviant tale of death and desire that is surprisingly sweet as it is dark. Romilly King created two very memorable characters that are up there in my most favorite couples ever list.

    Handled is a world where capital punishment is meted out to serial killers by highly trained killers called Handlers. These executions are supervised by Witnesses. Each Handler is assigned a Witness.

    Gray, best handler in town, was assigned Nathan, rookie witness, who somehow forged a more than professional connection to the notoriously very difficult handler.


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    Handled: Cleansed – Romilly King

    Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward – Gray is going back to handle the man who saw him as an angel, and unleashed the demon in him.

    I am a Handler; I deal with serial killers, legally, ruthlessly, and in the presence of my Witness, because justice must be seen to be done.

    Handling is an intimate procedure. I only perform for an audience of one; for my Witness, with his hot eyes and his innocent heart, and the pure white soul that I dirtied up so beautifully.

    Now someone else is watching, the man who refined the monster in me. I can’t allow that to continue, particularly as he threatens the Witness who has caused the frozen lump in my chest that I laughingly refer to as a heart, to sporadically beat.

    This isn’t about retribution; this is cleaning up the past so I have a chance at a future.

    Cleansed is the second book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.


    Cleansed picks up some months after the first book. We see Gray and Nathan’s relationship continue to evolve and grow stronger. For one brief moment, our favorite psycho lets himself be a vulnerable relaxed tiger around Nathan and learns what being cared for without any ulterior motives feels like.

    I am so happy we finally get Gray’s backstory. A crazed evangelist played a pivotal role, christening the kidnapped child Gray an angel sent to him. The man killed and tortured people in front of the child, waiting to see if the angel will appear and save the sinners.

    Years after his release, Gray learned this evangelist has kept tabs on him and was angry about his relationship with Nathan. Gray being Gray, he provoked his stalker and inadvertently put Nathan in danger. Then he went after the killer with typical Gray panache.

    I really like that the story went straight to the point with the identity of the killer. Gray has the resources and is smart enough to figure things out quickly. I also appreciated that he remained essentially himself even after the memories came rushing back. He might have a vulnerable moment or two but his claws are still sharp as ever.

    But also, soft thoughts!!!!!

    Oh, the soft thoughts are everything! ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)

    This is an aptly named book. Gray proved how deadly angelic he can be, burned the bridges to his past and went on to live halcyon days of sun, the occasional Nathan and OMG! cartwheels!

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Animal Impulses
    Artist: IAMX
    Album: The Unified Field


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    Handled: Polished – Romilly King

    How deadly do you have to be to kill a killer?

    Handlers are hard to kill, and to be fair most of us like the challenge when people try, but now someone is killing off handlers in bloody and complex ways.

    Not my problem.

    Not anymore.

    I got out, I got free, and I don’t want to go back.

    But someone is offering a favour if I handle this, a valuable one, and it could make all the difference to how this story ends.

    Handlers don’t expect a happy ever after; most of us don’t even know what one looks like. I do, my happy ever after is blue eyed and frequently filthy and deliciously mouthy and he bends the way I want him to bend. And I could have that. All I have to do is take on one more handling, and ensure we both survive it.

    The odds are not with me this time though.

    I really should have kept on killing, I’m out of practice.

    Polished is the third book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.


    The cartwheeling had to come to an end eventually…

    Polished is where things come full circle as a retired Gray was forced to handle another case and Nathan is again assigned as his witness. Handlers and Witnesses are murdered one by one. Gray needed to get his monster mojo back in order to solve the case faster. To do so, he pushes poor Nathan away because his little witness makes him more human. They kept hitting dead ends. The situation became even more desperate when Nathan disappeared.

    Nathan’s baby handler brother, Indigo and Indi’s special friend Trans, demanded they help. Now these two are adorable psychos! Can we have their book please?

    Nathan has learned his way around Gray, keeping faith and patiently waiting, waiting, waiting…Meanwhile, Gray, struggles to put a name to this thing between him and Nathan. It took two teen psychos to help him ease into it. And solve the case while they’re at it.

    Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed with how Gray’s redemption came about. Is it wrong for me to wish he was really the psychopath everyone thought he was? Can we just let psychos be psychos and still be capable of love? If Indi can, Gray can too, I believe.

    In this trilogy, I was all about Gray. Nathan is a great character through and through. I loved him from the start but the dark and dangerous tend to hog the spotlight more. However, Nathan’s dogged determination, his innate goodness, even his naivety and most especially his selfless love for these unlovable monsters sneaked up on me much like he sneaked his way into Gray’s heart. Slowly but surely. His complete trust in Gray was such a beautiful gift. After all that he has done, I looked at him with wonder too!

    This finale revealed a more intimate picture of the relationships between Handlers and Witnesses. It is a complicated relationship, a symbiosis of two people working together in super intense, highly volatile situations. Professional can quickly turn to personal, a natural progression of sorts, and I would love to see more of these dynamics explored. I really hope we get a spinoff series.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: My Witness
    Artist: The Irrepressibles
    Album: Mirror Mirror

    P.S.

    Handled should be experienced as a binge read. You won’t have it any other way.

    Witness the beginnings of Gray and Nathan’s explosive partnership in Handled book 1. Review here.


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    HANDLED | CLEANSED

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    REVIEW: Handled by Romilly King

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    Handled – Romilly King

    Serial killers think if it all goes south and they finally get caught that their swan song is a day in court, making the families relive the agony while they get off on that delicious pain, all over again.

    Not happening. Not anymore. We’re not making celebrities out of monsters. We’re not giving them a stage to strut on.

    Now they get an audience of two.

    One to Handle the problem, one to Witness it.

    I’m a Witness. I trained for six years to do my duty, to manage my contracted killer, and to watch justice be done.

    I knew it would be hard, the first time, to watch the eye for an eye moment.

    I expected to feel a lot of things – fear, disgust, guilt.

    I didn’t expect to feel turned on.

    And I didn’t expect my contracted killer to look quite so pretty with blood on his hands.

    HANDLED is a dark gay romance with themes of justice, retribution, and unsuitable love. It is not for the faint of heart and contains graphic scenes intended for an adult audience. Further trigger warnings inside.


    So deliciously dark! I love Gray!!!

    I’ve read a lot of serial killer mysteries and just when I’m getting the same old same old feels about the genre, Romilly King creates this novel world of Handlers and Witnesses in her riveting new series, Handled. The way I see it, it’s fighting monsters with monsters.

    Handled introduces us to a government program where they controlled and trained young psychopaths into Handlers. Basically killers sanctioned to render whatever punishment they see fit on serial killers roaming in the wilds. To make sure these Handlers are doing their jobs properly and within the bounds of the law, they are assigned a Witness each. It goes without saying that Witnessing is a very dangerous job. Attrition rates are extremely high.

    The book is a police procedural of sorts. We follow Gray and Nathan as they go about their business of investigating the prime suspect and establishing concrete evidence for their cases. The government requires hard evidence before they are allowed to handle a certain client a.k.a the guilty party.

    The world-building here was very well-thought out. It was done without much info-dumping. Everything felt real. I had no problems following the set-up. The jargon was easy to pick up. I got some slight dystopian vibes from it. Especially with the government involved.

    It’s Nathan’s first time to Witness and he was assigned the best and most notorious Handler, Gray. Now this Handler doesn’t play well with others. When Gray doesn’t like a somebody, the least you can expect is lose an eye. The rare exception is Nora, his long-time Witness, who is now passing the baton to Nathan.

    It was lust at first sight for our young rookie. Like most psychos we loved, Gray exuded that magnetic charisma that had Nathan mesmerized even with the full knowledge of what the man is capable of.

    Gray loves pain. All kinds, whether inflicted by him or on him. When he is in a killing mood, the man is intense! That big scene with Nathan and his client at the climax was pretty nasty. But it was glorious!

    I wouldn’t put it past her to plant the seeds knowing something might blossom because the wily Nora chose the perfect man as her successor. Nathan was totally green, he made errors that could have been fatal. But Gray sensed he was different.

    Nathan was a bit naive but direct. He’s scared but he didn’t give his Handler bullshit. He was respectful of Gray, taking time to ask him about his background instead of simply reading his file. He sassed him back once in a while too.

    I love Nathan! As he acclimatized to his grim job, we see him drawing out Gray’s various nuances. The way he complemented Gray’s personality, they just fit so naturally. I appreciated him for considering that Gray could be something more than what the system thinks he should be.

    And holy heck, the chemistry!!!

    The dynamics between the two was fantastic. They played off each other so well. The interactions were fraught with danger and sexual tension. Any minute Gray could snap. You’d never know if he would kill Nathan or fuck him. Both really.

    I am so happy the book is written in dual POV. Not knowing what goes on inside Gray’s head would be totally frustrating. I love that even though we are privy to his thoughts, it didn’t diminish his mystique. He’s still an enigmatic figure you’ll want to know more about. I enjoyed watching him deal with feelings Nathan is making him feel, feelings that are mostly foreign to him.

    Handled grabbed me and didn’t let me go. It’s a great balance of blood, gore, sex, and romance with a huge heaping of mystery, suspense and sprinkles of sweet. I didn’t find any of the scenes gratuitous. The plot just worked so well.

    I can’t wait to get more of Gray and Nathan as they mete out bloody justice while slowing finding their way to a happy ever after. But for now we are gifted with that super sweet ending.

    Please do heed the trigger warnings. I wouldn’t outright recommend this because it gets pretty dark. But if you dare…

    “Gray is the book you don’t skip to the last page of to see if your guesses are right. Gray is the book you read slowly and savour.”

    P.S.

    Handled is not a standalone novel. Rightly so because you’ll never be satisfied with just one book.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Used To The Darkness
    Artist: Des Rocs
    Album: Let The Vultures In


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    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperback copies and help support independent bookstores.

    HANDLED | CLEANSED

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    REVIEW: My Whole World by Davidson King

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    Joker’s Sin: My Whole World – Davidson King

    Atlas Durand’s whole world is built from the spoils of his past. Joker’s Sin is the most popular gay club in all of Haven Hart. Many clubs have come and gone, none able to compete with Atlas and his enigmatic power over his patrons. He would do anything to keep it thriving and anyone who stands in his way will be met with serious regrets.

    Toby St. Claire hates working at Vick’s Tricks and longs for his nights off so he can go to Joker’s Sin. Like everyone who steps foot into Atlas’s club, he’s taken by the owner himself and the magical pulse that owns him when he’s there. Joker’s Sin is Toby’s escape from his life and Atlas is his dream come true.

    When Toby’s boss realizes he can use Toby to help take down Joker’s Sin and make Vick’s Tricks the club to beat in Haven Hart, it turns everything upside down. Lies, deceit, and corruption threaten to tear Atlas and Toby apart. Is their love strong enough to survive it all or will they become victims of mayhem?


    I became curious about Davidson King’s Haven Hart universe after I listened to her interview in the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. I’ve seen her books around but was hesitant to start on her main Haven Hart series because there are a lot of books released.

    Joker’s Sin is the spin-off series that can be read as standalone. There are going to be only 4 installments so the odds of finishing the entire thing is high. Each major player in the Joker’s Sin club will have their own books. Three book are out so far.

    The series opens with My Whole World, the story of club owner, Atlas Durand. He is an uber-charismatic showman, loved by all who frequents his club. He runs a tight ship and puts an even tighter lock around his heart due to a tragic past that explains why his club is named that way. I pictured him as the magnificent Lenny Kravitz.

    His three closest friends work in the club. Ledger is DJ Edge. Max is in charge of the bar. Zero is head of security. Together, they make the club the hottest place to be in Haven Hart. I have no favorite character among them yet but they are interesting enough for me to want to get to know them better.

    The love interest here is Toby St. Claire. Toby is a club regular who had a hopeless crush on Atlas. His ultimate dream is to be noticed by the great man. Toby is sweet. Sadly, that seems to be all he is. Among the important characters, he was the one I least connected to. I agreed with one GR reviewer who did not like his character’s narration. His voice was overacted by the narrator in the audiobook. Toby’s exaggerated reactions were more annoying than amusing. As a result, I wasn’t feeling the romance.

    I’d love for Atlas to find a new love after what he had been through but I just didn’t feel his connection to Toby was that strong. I see it more of his protective instincts reacting to a sweet, gorgeous young man in need of help. The way their romance unfolded came across to me like we were told rather than shown. Although, there were scenes, like that lovely dance, that showed them forming connections. This issue is a ME thing because many people enjoyed their love story.

    One thing I liked about MM romances is that there is this nice tradition where the writers give the lead female characters little happy endings of their own. I’m giving this a mention because that mini arc about Tobi’s twin sister, Poppy, and hacker/bodyguard, Desi, piqued my interest more than the main couple.

    Haven Hart is home to many crime families. Toby works in the rival bar, Vick’s Tricks, owned by one of the minor crooks, Vic Kelly. When his abusive boss learned that he won a date with Atlas and was even offered a job at his club, he tasked Toby to gather intel on Joker’s Sin. If he fails, Poppy would pay the price. This put Toby in a difficult situation.

    I wasn’t particularly pleased with how he handled it. It’s understandable that he’s scared for his sister but I’m not a fan of the lies. Altas gave him several chances to come clean. The big man made it clear he was willing to help whatever the trouble was but Toby kept prevaricating.

    What kept me reading was Joker’s Sin, both the club and the person. I liked how they came alive. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the inner workings of a club. Even though I don’t go clubbing at all, I love the vibe of clubs. It’s that palpable energy generated whenever there’s a crowd enjoying great music. I can see why people keep coming back to Atlas’ place. I’d love to be there myself.

    Joker the person was hell of a lot compelling. I wanted to know more about him. His history with Atlas was an entire book in itself. I was actually rooting hard for him and Atlas even though I knew how it played out. I wished this was their happy ending.

    While I wasn’t a fan of Altas and Toby’s romance, it still felt organic to the entire story. It had a pretty solid plot that moved things quickly so I wasn’t bored. There were a lot of things happening that kept my attention. I liked how they resolved the Vic Kelly situation because that’s where Wong, the Chinese mob boss, came in. His appearance was short but he made an impression. I’m keen to read a book about him.

    My Whole World was an effective series opener. My first visit to Haven Hart was a mixed bag but I’m already invested in this world. I liked how it connects to the bigger Haven Hart universe, enticing me to explore the other books. The author did an outstanding job integrating various elements from the main series and presenting them from new perspectives. Long-time readers would enjoy the easter eggs scattered about.

    This is a must-read if you are a fan. If you’re new to the author or a first-time visitor to this colorful town, Joker’s Sin is a good place to start.

    P.S.

    You can listen to Davidson King’s interview here.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Dance With Me
    Artist: Alphaville
    Album: Afternoons In Utopia


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of My Whole World. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Kindle
    Audiobook

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperback copies and help support independent bookstores.

    MY WHOLE WORLD